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New incomes streams needed to retain emergency towing vessels (07/03/11)
The Highland Council believes that a case can be made for retaining the emergency towing vessel that patrols the Minches by seeking new income streams for the tug which is based in Stornoway.
The Council is convinced there is no commercial alternative to the current lifeline service and is seeking more time to find a long-term viable solution.
A Council deputation attended a meeting in Edinburgh on Friday 4 March involving the Scottish Government and the Maritime Coastguard Service to discuss future arrangements for emergency towing vessels in Scotland.
The UK Government’s funding for the current tugs operating in Stornoway and Shetland is scheduled to be removed from autumn of this year due to the high operational costs.
Council Leader Councillor Michael Foxley and Councillor John Laing, Chairman of Transport Environmental and Community Services, were encouraged by the constructive discussions that took place at the meeting with the Scottish Government and the MCA.
They highlighted the importance of the emergency towing vessel, underlined by recent rescues in the Minches and the absence of any viable alternative service in the area.
Councillor Foxley said: “The tugs are absolutely vital to maintain safety in Minches. It is clear that commercial alternatives are not readily available in the Highlands and Islands and given that the service is vital, an alternative model needs to be considered.”
Councillor Laing said: “Consideration must be given to exploring additional work and funding streams so as to minimise the cost to the public sector of retaining the tugs. Over the coming weeks we will be working with our partners to identify a viable long term solution.”
The options include increasing the percentage share of the salvage monies from an emergency response that is paid to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency from the minimal net 15%; and exploring the options for charging for escorting hazardous traffic through the Minches.
The tugs could also attract work from the UK Government (Customs, MoD Diving Support, Hydriographic Surveys and the Northern Lighthouse Board) and the Scottish Government (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Fisheries Protection, Fisheries Research). Funding contributions could be attracted from marine insurance companies and the oil industry.